I don't think LA media has jumped on this yet, but the Bakersfield press and the net are abuzz about two men who have been missing out in the Mojave desert since early Sunday morning. The two men, ages 29 and 27, left the the Cottage Inn motel, located in Randsburg CA, about 02:30 AM on Sunday morning to take a "night run" in a Polaris Razor XP900 ATV. The men have not been seen or heard from since.
Randsurg is a former mining town that now caters to local "desert rats" and to the off-road community. I have been there several times as it on the way to the Sierra Nevada mountains and is also near an area where I like to jeep. The area where the pair is believed to have headed is fairly diverse, with flat desert, rocky hills and steep craigs all being present. They were reportedly on their way to the Cuddeback dry lake bed, which is about a 15 mile ride from Randsburg. Numerous mine shafts are present within the search area, some marked - some not.
Other than Randsburg and nearby Johannesburg, there are no inhabited areas on their planned route. The region's isolation and stark beauty make it a popular area for off-roaders to ride, myself included. It is a bad place to be without supplies or transportation. It can be a stark environment, something that we sometimes forget when recreating in the area.
Temperatures have been in the low 30s at night, colder in the higher elevations. One would assume that since they left their motel at 2:30 AM, they were appropriately dressed for cold temperatures. It is unknown whether they had any food or water with them when they left their motel.
On additional factor is that it is possible that the missing men changed their mind and went to another area of the desert, expanding the area that needs to be searched. Had the riders traveled to the west rather than the east and headed up into the El Pasos, the terrain would be rather different than in the Cuddeback area. The El Pasos are a steep mountain range with numerous deep canyons and sharp drop-offs.
There is a perception by friends and family that the search and rescue response has not been adequate for the large area involved. Facebook and numerous off-road and desert bulletin boards have been calling for volunteers and logistical support to go to Randsburg and participate in the search. I have no idea whether the official search efforts have been appropriate, but I have some concerns whether a large group of people without command and control, search experience and logistical support will be more of a hindrance or a help in the search effort.
Random searches without coordination, a systematic pattern, documentation of areas searched and areas to be searched and a specific search plan are far less effective than those that are properly done. Hopefully, volunteer efforts will not interfere with the SAR resources already on scene. Contamination of tracks, the presence of people/vehicles that need to be checked out and the possibility of volunteers needing assistance are concerns.
As this situation occurs every so often, I hope that the local agencies involved have the response down to an efficient, effective one. People drive/fall into shafts every few years, people become lost and planes crash in the area all too frequently. Random violence is not unheard of, though most desert denizens just want to be left alone. The vast area involved, the hostility of the terrain and the remoteness of it all mandate a well planned and orderly response. I hope that is what is occurring.
I hope this has a positive outcome, though as more time passes that becomes less likely. It has been four full days since the two men vanished, that is a long time to be stranded in the open desert. My thoughts and prayers are with the two men, their friends and family, as well as the people searching, both professional and volunteers. Godspeed.
I will keep up on this as things progress.
Thanks for reading,